Prior to 1980, services for homeless youth who were not wards of the State were
almost non-existent. There were some efforts at providing beds, but a lack of
funding kept such programs from being maintained regularly.
In 1982, a homeless youth first showed Tom Behrens the dark side of a juice
bar where teens were lured into prostitution and drug use. This youth told
Tom “We need your help.” Tom knew The Night Ministry had to find
a way to help.
Street youth taught Tom about the daily challenges and lack of safe, age-appropriate
housing. The Night Ministry Board of Directors formed a committee to study
the problems of youth on the street and find services to address the problems.
When The Night Ministry met with the Department of Children and Family Services
and some providers of state wards, we were told that there were no homeless
kids since youth could either go home or become a state ward.
In reality, that was not what was happening. Beginning in 1986, The Night
Ministry worked very hard to educate youth service providers and state agencies
on what we learned on the streets. Tom Behrens began advocating on behalf of
at-risk and homeless youth.
In 1984, realizing the extent and complexity of the homeless youth problem,
we began offering age-appropriate services to youth.
In 1985, Tom was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Homeless
Youth; their recommendations resulted in approximately $900,000 of new funding
earmarked for homeless and at-risk youth programs. Overcoming initial refusal
to recognize the unique situations of homeless non-ward youth, Tom advocated
on the state level for the passage of appropriate laws to permit new regulations
to license emergency homeless youth shelters for non-ward youth. Consequently,
Behrens served on the DCFS Committee that drew up these regulations, impacting
youth services across Illinois.
1989, Tom took a leading role in getting legislation passed, making it possible
to open emergency shelters for youth who are not wards of the state.
1990, we organized the Youth Shelter Network to more effectively coordinate
services for homeless and at-risk youth.
In 2004, we grew our Youth Outreach Team - both in number of staff and number of outreach programs.
In 2007, we opened two additional youth housing programs: Transitional Living Program and Response-Ability Pregnant and Parenting Program.
In 2010, we expanded our Youth Outreach Team's services to include a Wednesday night stop in Rogers Park.
In 2011, we opened The Crib, our overnight youth shelter located in Lakeview.
We continue growing our youth services programs in response to the needs of
homeless youth we meet and the problems they face.
History of our Youth Housing Programs